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Biodiversity City

At MKCA, we are passionate about the potential that design can play in positively impacting the effects and underlying causes of climate change. That said, the framework for thinking about how cities can engage the climate in positive and affirmative ways is often explored through the lens of infrastructure, open space, and other forms of public space and public works.  

Biodiversity City is an examination of urban built form and its intrinsic ecological potentials, explored through visualizations and design speculations. At its heart, it is an effort to establish a framework for individual owners and urban dwellers to positively engage these issues in their own spaces and buildings, especially through an understanding of the relationship between future private development and its ability to respond to and impact ultra local climatic condition that can positively influence urban biodiversity and ecological conservation.

An ongoing research project by MKCA, this initiative is being developed through maps, informational drawings, texts, and physical models, as well as searchable, and actionable planning and zoning data, all of which will be made publicly available. The ambition of the project is to establish a critical, methodological, and technical framework for understanding how design for biodiversity can be a significant factor in contemplating the future planning, development, and architecture of the City.



We’ve developed a set of custom digital tools that use the City’s publicly available planning and zoning data to simulate and tabulate a critical ecological variables such as access to sunlight, temperature, moisture, and exposure.

  • These are variables that like height, establish consequential relationships and interdependencies between urban form and a range of potential micro and nano scaled biomes that can exist on a single site.
  • Our research shows that building height, orientation, neighboring context, and other three-dimensional variables produce an enormous diversity of highly localized environmental intensities that frequently occur and coexist within a very small region of the City. Urban biomes are as diverse and dense as the City itself.

By using the City’s planning data (NYC PLUTO) as the basis of our design method, we are able to add this nano-ecological information to the original data set and publicly available. We are in the process of building out the database for every parcel in New York City.

  • Through independent research, we have also built a database of native flora and fauna, some of which are uniquely adapted to thriving in urban environments, and others that may be at risk or even endangered.
  • We are interested in developing tools and information that will enable individual and organizations to learn more about the specific opportunities that private space has to positively contribute to the biodiversity of the City, and we are interested in developing frameworks through which the wealth of that potential can become a factor in influencing the way the City is developed and built into the future.


Project Team
Justin Snider
Robinson Strong
David Franck
Michael Chen